Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

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jms2
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Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:09 pm

I know there's already this thread covering formatting of SD and CF cards for use on RO3.1, but I'm looking for some advice regarding 'real' hard discs.

My A3000 has an HCCS IDE interface, which I've tried with both an SD adaptor and a CF adaptor. Both worked up to a point, but neither proved to be stable over the longer term (or the shorter term, to be honest). I've therefore come to the conclusion that I'm stuck with mechanical harddiscs. Actually this isn't really a big deal because it's possible to buy old laptop harddiscs quite cheaply - I've obtained a 2GB IBM drive, with a view to partitioning it into 4x 512MB drives using the HCCS partition utility.

The partition utility recognises the drive and seems happy enough to partition it. However, would I be right in thinking that it needs putting into FileCore format first? I've found an old post in which the author of the utility states that it only rewrites the partition table, and doesn't actually format the disc.

If I do need to format it, I'm not sure if it can be done on the A3000 - because as I understand it !HForm only works with motherboard-based IDE interfaces, and there seems to be no such thing as an HCCS formatter (their drives must have come pre-formatted?) I've seen an IDE formatter (!IDEform) on the forum somewhere... but I can't find it, and I don't know if it would work with the HCCS board.

Does anyone know of a reliable way to format a 2GB drive under RO3.1 (assuming that it will then be partitioned using the utility I've already got to <512MB partitions)?

I could possibly plug the drive into my RiscPC and use !Hform.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by martinw » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:51 pm

I've got an HCCS mini podule IDE interface on my A3000.

I can't remember exactly what's on this disk but it may be of use ...
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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:03 pm

That does look interesting! I've got the official HCCS disc, but it only contains !IDEMgr.

I suspect that the formatter might not go above 512MB... but on second thoughts perhaps it does, because the HCCS software does permit partitioning. It'd be really useful if you could upload it.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by flaxcottage » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:03 pm

On my A3000, which has a Castle IDE interface !HForm formatted the real hard disc with no problem.
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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:59 pm

flaxcottage wrote:On my A3000, which has a Castle IDE interface !HForm formatted the real hard disc with no problem.
That's interesting... Searching previous posts on here and elsewhere suggests that it doesn't work with third party interfaces, but maybe some are more compatible than others.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by steve3000 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:17 am

jms2 wrote:
flaxcottage wrote:On my A3000, which has a Castle IDE interface !HForm formatted the real hard disc with no problem.
That's interesting... Searching previous posts on here and elsewhere suggests that it doesn't work with third party interfaces, but maybe some are more compatible than others.
Castle IDE interface is quite different to all other IDE podules in that it implements the same hardware as the Acorn IDE hardware, just over the podule bus.

So Acorn's !HForm will work with the Castle interface, but you'll also have the same restrictions as the Acorn interface (limited CF card and SD converter compatibility). You might also notice that the Castle interface works through ADFS, rather than IDEFS. :)

The Acorn !HForm won't work with other interfaces that I'm aware of. Most third party interfaces came with their own !IDEForm application (or similar), based on HForm, except patched to the interface. A few (possibly HCCS?) had much nicer desktop applications to format and manage the HDDs.

All that said, and going back to the original post... unless you are mapping out defects or using a suspected faulty drive, HForm etc. only needs to set up the partition table to make a drive usable with RISC OS. Low level formatting isn't required on IDE HDDs in the way it used to be needed with ST506 etc.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:59 am

steve3000 wrote: All that said, and going back to the original post... unless you are mapping out defects or using a suspected faulty drive, HForm etc. only needs to set up the partition table to make a drive usable with RISC OS. Low level formatting isn't required on IDE HDDs in the way it used to be needed with ST506 etc.
Aha! That's exactly what I was looking for... thanks! :D I kind of suspected this might be the case, but I couldn't find it explicitly stated anywhere. I take it this doesn't apply for SD cards etc (hence all the debate about formatting them).

So in theory my partitioning utility should be sufficient, I'll give it a try.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:19 pm

I tried just typing *co. Idefsdiscs 4, and hey presto, four drives of the correct sizes appear! :D So thanks, you're right, it didn't need formatting at all.

Now to try to salvage what I can from the CF card. My plan is to leave the partitions as they are but tell the disc to only use the first one. Then I should be able to attach the cf card as a slave drive hopefully.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:10 pm

... and that worked fine, after some faffing about getting both IDE devices to share the same interface. The CF card insisted on being the Master no matter what I did to its jumpers, so I had to make the real HDD into the slave for the purposes of transfer.

The strange thing was, the corruption present on the CF card wasn't apparent when I copied the files over, and everything transferred fine. I guess it must be an intermittent fault. That's the trouble with these solid state devices, once you've had the experience of them going wrong (repeatedly), it's hard to trust them again.

So I've come to the conclusion that older technology is better. Not really a surprise...

Also the machine now makes a nice "spin down" noise when I turn it off. =D>

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:47 pm

It had to happen... no sooner had I decided that real HDDs are the future, then signs of the previous issues that I had start to reappear. :twisted: Specifically, on boot the third partition has disappeared, ie there's no icon on the icon bar, just a gap. This is exactly the kind of weird stuff that happened previously when I had 4 partitions active.

On the positive side, this proves one thing - there probably wasn't any problem with the CF card (or maybe the SD card), it must be my IDE interface which has some kind of problem.

There's one thing that I've noticed, which is that on the short ribbon cable (which was supplied with with the original 80MB drive and which I use as the "permanent" arrangement once I've transferred all the data), the part of the cable which goes to pin 1 has been deliberately cut and a short section removed. This is the /RESET signal. I have no idea why this might have been done (googling for it hasn't helped), but could it be interfering with the operation of the drive when partitioned?

It might explain why there are no problems during the data transfer phase, but only later when I've boxed everything up for normal use.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:32 pm

I tried out a different cable, and all seemed well... But only for a day, and now I am seeing Broken Directory errors. There is certainly a fault with the IDE interface, but it is an intermittent one.

I'm going to look for dirty contacts and dry joints.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by Ottly » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:25 pm

jms2 wrote:
Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:32 pm
I tried out a different cable, and all seemed well... But only for a day, and now I am seeing Broken Directory errors. There is certainly a fault with the IDE interface, but it is an intermittent one.

I'm going to look for dirty contacts and dry joints.
Hi, have you had any progress with this. I have a friend with a HCCS interface in an A3000 and we are having the exact same issues. We've tried Compact Flash and SD cards and both eventually end up corrupting. Drives going missing, broken directories, etc... (same as youve described above).

I was thinking maybe a later version of the ROM on the card might fix a possible bug in the software. Its got version 4 written on it now.

Appreciate your update.

Thanks, Scott.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:55 pm

Yes, mine is working now, and I thought I had posted about it on here - but obviously I did not.

I can't actually remember what did it, but I think I removed the podule and cleaned all the contacts. The following combination did work in the end:

(1) A read hard disc, formatted to 4x 512Mb partitions, and
(2) Using a cable without one of the cores missing.

I could never get it to work with either SD card or CF-IDE adaptors, which was very annoying! Having said that, I am quite reassured to see that the problem is repeatable.

I think my ROM is also Version 4. I got V5 from someone on here (Retroclinic I think) but it did not work at all - I think it must be for a slightly different interface.

The moral of the story seems to be that not all IDE interfaces are the same. I think the RiscPC's is also flawed in this respect as well.

The good news is that real 44-pin 2GB hard discs are cheap to buy (if you can find them).
Last edited by jms2 on Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by Ottly » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:20 pm

Ok, thanks for replying so quickly.

Yes this is very frustrating, we've been having this problem since we got the mini podule some 2 years ago now.

So even after cleaning everything a mechanical hard drive now works reliably but if you tried a solid state drive it would still corrupt. Is that right?

Here are some pics of the mini podule and the compact flash card, adaptor and SD card and adaptor we have tried with no long term success.

Looks like a mechanical hard drive will be our next step.
image1.jpeg
image2.jpeg
image4.jpeg
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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:41 pm

Ottly wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:20 pm
So even after cleaning everything a mechanical hard drive now works reliably but if you tried a solid state drive it would still corrupt. Is that right?
To give a strictly scientific answer, I would have to point out that I did not re-test the CF-IDE card after cleaning the contacts. So it might work. However, the fact that you and I have both had the same problem suggests that solid state drives simply don’t work with the HCCS card.

It might be worth you having a go - the pins had a visible white oxide deposit on them which was easy to scrape off.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by sirbod » Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:29 pm

It sounds like the HCCS driver suffers the same issue ADFS did, namely it didn't keep up with the IDE standards. All the issues with ADFS and SD/CF/NIC's/SATA were resolved via a combination of software and/or hardware fixes in this thread, it's quite possible similar software patches need to be applied to the HCCS driver. The key one being the DRQ timeout which can lead to failed writes.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by vanpeebles » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:05 am

I used a CF card on my HCCS with no problems.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by DutchAcorn » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:36 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:05 am
I used a CF card on my HCCS with no problems.
Sandisk <4GB?
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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:31 pm

...or was it perhaps less than 512MB so handled as one partition?

The faults I saw manifested themselves mainly as partitions disappearing.

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:20 am

I had a few that were under 512mb, but I'm sure I tried multiple partitions too. You had to be careful of using cf to ide adapters with double sockets etc.

Really old thread about it is here:

https://www.iconbar.com/forums/viewthre ... e=1#101672

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Re: Formatting real harddiscs >512MB on RO3.1

Post by jms2 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:37 pm

Mine is one of these Startech items.

It has 40 and 44 pin connectors, but only one card slot.

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